Students, Young Adults Gather In Downtown Pittsburgh For Climate Strike

Sep 20, 2019

Students and adults filled the street in front of Pittsburgh’s City-County Building downtown on Friday as part of the global Climate Strike. Speakers included 18-year-old Leandra Mira of Upper St. Clair, who organized Pittsburgh’s protest and called on lawmakers to take action in fighting climate change.

Credit Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

“I learned that our politicians in Pennsylvania have no plans of addressing this public health crisis. What they plan on doing is turning western PA into a hub for plastic production,” said Mira.

Mira said she’s striking for people in western Pennsylvania dealing with poor air quality, and will strike until the state takes action on climate change. 

The climate strike movement was started by 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Her FridaysForFuture movement began in August of 2018, inspiring young people passionate about fighting climate change to strike all over the world.

Across the globe, hundreds of thousands of young people took to the streets to demand that leaders tackle climate change in the run-up to a U.N. summit.

Many were children who skipped school to take part in the second "Global Climate Strike," following a similar event in March that drew large crowds.

Events kicked off in Australia, where protesters marched in 110 towns and cities, including Sydney and the national capital, Canberra.

Demonstrators called for their country, the world's largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas, to take more drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Pittsburgh Public Schools posted Thursday that students who wished to leave school for the strike must have a permission slip signed by a parent or guardian. In a statement, Mayor Bill Peduto said he “welcomes participation by Pittsburgh residents, workers and students in the Global Climate Strike” at the City-County Building.

The statement also sounded a practical note, adding “Pittsburgh Public Schools students need written permission from their parents or guardians to leave school, and Mayor William Peduto will co-sign such permission slips for youths interested in validating their attendance at the historic event…”

Organizers estimate more than 300,000 protesters took to Australian streets in what would be the country's biggest demonstration since the Iraq War in 2003.

Thunberg is expected to speak at the U.N. Climate Action Summit on Monday.

Hundreds of rallies took place across Europe, including in the Czech Republic, Germany, Britain and Poland, which is still widely coal-reliant and where many middle schools gave students the day off to enable them to participate in the rallies in Warsaw and other cities.

In Berlin, police said more than 100,000 people gathered in front of the capital's landmark Brandenburg Gate, not far from Chancellor Angela Merkel's office where the Cabinet thrashed out the final details of a $60 billion plan to curb Germany's greenhouse gas emissions .

Thousands of schoolchildren and their adult supporters demonstrated in London outside the British Parliament to demand "climate justice" and stronger action to tackle global warming. Some held home-made placards with slogans including "Don't be a fossil fool" and "Make our planet Greta again," in a reference Thunberg.

The British government said it endorsed the protesters' message, but didn't condone skipping school — a stance that didn't sit well with some of the young protesters.

"If politicians were taking the appropriate action we need and had been taking this action a long time ago when it was recognized the world was changing in a negative way, then I would not have to be skipping school," said Jessica Ahmed, a 16-year-old London student.

Smaller protests took place in Asia — including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong and India.

"We need to reclaim our constitutional right to clean air and water," said Aman Sharma, a 16-year-old protester in India's capital of New Delhi.

In Tokyo, hundreds of students and environmental activists marched through the business and shopping district of Shibuya, chanting "Climate Justice!" while holding hand-painted placards made of cardboard with messages such as "Go Green," ''Save the Earth," and "the Earth is on fire."

Smaller rallies were held in more than a dozen cities around Japan, including Kyoto, the nation's ancient capital that hosted the 1997 climate conference.

In a quiet protest in Seoul, about two dozen environmental activists flashed Morse code messages on LED flashlights, calling for action to rescue the earth.

And in the Afghan capital, Kabul, an armored personnel carrier was deployed to protect about 100 young people as they marched, led by a group of several young women carrying a banner emblazoned with "Fridays for Future."

Fardeen Barakzai, one of the organizers and head of the local climate activist group, Oxygen, said "we want to do our part. We as the youth of our country know the problem of climate change. We know war can kill a group of people. ... The problem in Afghanistan is our leaders are fighting for power but the real power is in nature."

Rallies were also held in Johannesburg and the South African capital, Pretoria, as well as Kenya's capital, Nairobi, where some young protesters wore hats and outfits made from plastic bottles to emphasize the dangers of plastic waste, a major threat to cities and oceans.

Climate change "is worse than homework," one sign proclaimed.

Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change and the least equipped to deal with it, experts have said. Governments have pleaded for more support from the international community.

More rallies are underway in the United States, where organizers say more than 800 events were expected.

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Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.